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Cities Confirm EWG Tap Water Tests

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Washington, DC – Testing by four municipal drinking water suppliers has confirmed the results of a study by the Environmental Working Group that detected widespread contamination by chromium-6, a suspected toxic carcinogen.

In oral testimony Wednesday (Feb. 2) before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook said that the four water utilities reported detecting chromium-6 contamination at concentrations similar to or higher than those measured by EWG's research. All are significantly higher than California’s proposed public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion.

"It's not a partisan issue, it's not a regional issue, it's an American issue," Cook testified.

Click here to watch video

The utility testing results made public so far:

-- Honolulu, Hawaii

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply took 11 samples from Oahu pumping stations showing chromium-6 levels ranging from 0.32 to 4.00 parts per billion. EWG sample: 2 ppb.

-- Madison, Wisc.

Madison’s utility found chromium-6 in four wells at concentrations of 0.40 ppb to 1.79 ppb. EWG sample: 1.58 ppb.

-- Milwaukee, Wisc.

The Milwaukee utility’s tests on January 4 found concentrations of 0.19 ppb to 0.22 ppb. EWG sample: 0.18 ppb.

-- Bend, Ore.

In Bend, Ore., Avion water reported finding up to 0.65 ppb. EWG sample: 0.78 ppb.

The federal National Toxicology Program has concluded from animal testing that the pollutant shows “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity.” An EPA draft review called chromium-6 in tap water “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

On December 20, the Environmental Working Group released a study entitled “Cancer-Causing Chromium-6 Pollution in U.S. Tap Water,” which reported results of laboratory tests of drinking water from 35 cities. Because few jurisdictions test specifically for chromium-6, EWG took conducted samplings in 35 cities whose annual water quality reports indicated significant total chromium pollution. To create a snapshot of these water supplies, EWG tested for chromium-6, also called hexavalent chromium, or the “Erin Brockovich chemical,” for her storied campaign to uncover industrial dumping in California.

EWG engaged volunteers to collect samples, using a standard protocol, from unfiltered taps in homes or in public buildings. EWG researchers sent these samples to a nationally recognized laboratory. The tests found toxic hexavalent chromium in the water supplies of 31 cities, serving more than 26 million Americans.

The EWG report contains an extensive section on the methodology used to test tap water for chromium-6. The methodology described how the water samples were obtained, shipped and analyzed, with name and contact information of the laboratory and quality controls. On October 22, EWG research staff briefed the American Water Works Association and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies on the upcoming chromium-6 report

On December 31, eleven days after EWG released its report, California lowered its chromimum-6 public health goal from 0.06 to 0.02 parts per billion (ppb).

Since the release of EWG’s report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged the potential risks of excessive exposure to chromium-6. EPA has offered federal assistance to utilities to assess chromium-6 pollution. At Wednesday’s hearing, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson called EWG’s snapshot results “consistent with other studies that have also detected chromium-6 in public water systems.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate committee told Cook to "keep on doing what you're doing. I like what you're doing. I certainly welcome it. We can't stop the science or telling the truth to the American people."

Go here for EWG’s chromium-6 testing methodology:
http://static.ewg.org/reports/2010/chrome6/html/methodology.html

EWG President Ken Cook Testifies at Senate Water Contamination Hearing. (PDF)

Senate Hearing Focuses on EWG's Chromium-6 Study

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment and can be found at www.ewg.org.